Friday, January 11, 2013

Sum Yum Gai: Sum Yum Food

Chinese food is one of my favourite styles of cuisine. So many different flavours simply cooked and turned into works of art. Most of the world's best Chinese restaurants are hole-in-the-wall type places just like in China. Sum Yum Gai on Washington near 14th in Miami is no exception. The decor will definitely scare you away, but as my mother always says, "you cannot judge a book by it's cover," same rule applies with Chinese restaurants. Another important rule of thumb is eat where Chinese people eat, they know good food.

As we walked in and grabbed one of the eight tables, I couldn't help but notice the awful decor and how run-down the restaurant looked, but the smell from the kitchen quickly alleviated all my worries. The menu at Sum Yum Gai isn't filled with Americanized Chinese dishes but rather a more authentic take on dishes from Beijing. As we were glancing over the menu a party of four entered the restaurant, looked around and quickly came over to our table to say hello. It happened to be a friend of my father's who confided in us that the only reason they stopped at this restaurant was because they felt safe seeing another "Jewish" looking family sitting and eating, that was us. My father and his friend are avid Chinese food eaters and travel to China a few times a year, they know and love good/authentic Chinese food. We told them to ignore the decor and sit and enjoy one of the best meals Miami has to offer.

We ordered special won-ton soup, Szechuan fish, hot and sour eggplant, mu-shu chicken, and steamed rice, oh and let's not forget their special homemade chili sauce. We were served fairly quickly even though the restaurant was at capacity. We started with the special won-ton soup, obviously, and boy oh boy was it good. Mix in their homemade Chinese chilli, a red spicy and nutty tasting chilli, and the soup is a masterpiece of Asian flavours. The pork in the soup was seasoned perfectly and properly cooked. It did not mimic the texture of shoe leather, rather it was soft and melt in your mouth delicious. It had a sweet and savory taste, it was so good that I stole pieces from everyone's bowls when they weren't looking. The dumplings were delicious, soft yummy noodle with a scrumptious pork filling. Instead of over-loading the soup with Bok Choy or onions, the chef at Sum Yum Gai makes use of other fresh and yummy veggies such as broccoli, pea pods and carrots. The soup's broth brings this dish to another level, basically perfection. spiced well, not salty or watery and no oily film, as some Montreal restaurants tend to serve. I am not sure if it was a pure chicken broth, I suspect there might be some pork in there too, but when it's this good does anyone really care what's in it? Well I guess as long as there is no pigeon or dog. The waitress told us that the large soup was big enough for two, being four people we ordered two. Next time we'll order one as it is more than enough for four substantial portions.

The Szechuan fish is spicy with a hint of sweet that balanced the spice perfectly. The dish was so good that I scraped the plate clean. I love Asian fish dishes but have never had one as good as Sum Yum Gai's. The fish was perfectly cooked, flakey and tender served in a dark asian sauce with broccoli, pea pods, bok choy, onions, peppers and cauliflower. The veggies were tender and crispy and picked up the flavours of the sauce well.

The mu-shu chicken, we had chicken because my sister does not eat pork, is served in a very generous portion. It is everything you would expect from a very good mu-shu. The pancakes were very good, our only complaint was there wasn't enough of them. We had four pancakes and enough mu-shu for more than ten. The veggies were tender yet still had a bite and the hoisin sauce was excellent, I'm not sure if they blend their own, but either way it was truly enjoyable.

The hot and sour eggplant was way more than we expected it to be. Besides eggplant, pea pods, bok choy, onions, broccoli and cauliflower all made appearances in this deliciously executed dish. The eggplant was properly cooked, tender but not slimy, same for the rest of the vegetables. The sauce was spicy and sour, not too hot, just a perfect balance of the two. I found the sauce to be very similar tasting to that of the Szechuan fish, but with a little more kick to it. Every bite left you wanting more and more and more.
As we finished each dish, literally scrapping the plates clean, I noticed how many take-out and delivery orders were leaving the restaurant. They are open really late and boy oh boy is their take out and delivery popular amongst locals. They have a special take-out and delivery menu with very reasonable options for lunch and dinner starting as low as $8.95 up to $12.95. These combos include a main, fried rice and your choice of soups or spring roll or tao shrimps, all excellent options. There are many main dish options included in this combo; chicken dishes, beef, pork and seafood. They even provide a vast array of vegetarian friendly meals as well.

Sum Yum Gai has been a family favourite for more than seven years. I had my first experience this trip down and couldn't believe what I have been missing all these years. Honestly better than any Chinese restaurant I've tried in the Montreal and surrounding areas. Next time you find yourself in the hustle and bustle of south beach, leave all other restaurants behind and trek the few blocks to Sum Yum Gai, you will thank me later.

Special won-ton soup

Mu-Shu Chicken

Szechuan Fish

Hot and sour eggplant

Homemade chilli sauce

Sum Yum Gai on Urbanspoon

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